In the U.K in 2013, a Reiki professional was jailed for sexually abusing Reiki clients. While that’s the only public notice of Reiki abuse I’ve found, people have been privately sharing painful stories of abusive treatment by Reiki professionals for many years.
My response is always the same. I’m deeply sorry for the pain they are experiencing, and I encourage them to get the support they need to heal.
I also explain what the public doesn’t know: there are no agreed-upon standards for Reiki practice or training and no professional accountability. In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to set up as a Reiki professional with no professional training or experience.
I encourage the person to practice self-Reiki if they’ve been trained, or to find a responsible teacher to learn Reiki self-practice. I help them compensate for the lack of Reiki professional standards by offering guidelines for choosing a class that is a good fit for them.
Abusers among us
Everyone is vulnerable when reaching out for help. That vulnerability might be especially acute for those seeking help from a spiritual or health professional.
The Reiki abuse stories shared with me mostly involve psychospiritual manipulation, Reiki professionals taking advantage of the vulnerability of someone who came to them for healing and/or training.
How can it be?
Clearly there’s no excusing abuse.
That said, if we look at the situation honestly, it’s not surprising abuse happens in the Reiki community. Although the impulse to protect those in need seems deeply ingrained in most people, that’s not true of everyone. Even stringent medical licensing doesn’t protect the public from those determined to use their position to exploit others.
Without standards for Reiki practice or training, anyone can set up as a Reiki professional without investing in training, mentoring or professional supervision. People can present themselves as Reiki professionals without learning how to create and maintain an ethical therapeutic relationship.
It doesn’t occur to many Reiki professionals to stop and contemplate, what is my responsibility to people who come to me for help?
Few Reiki professionals take the time to first create the foundation of consistent daily self practice. They take on the responsibility of healing others without an on-going commitment to self-healing. While it’s no guarantee, the commitment to daily self practice helps us stay grounded and behave ethically.
Looking at the broader picture, we live in a spiritually naive, spiritually illiterate culture. People are confused about what “spiritual” means, and people in various spiritual communities struggle to understand what power is appropriate to give a spiritual teacher. Students don’t realize going beyond your boundaries is a transformation that can happen organically from within when you commit to daily practice.
Some teachers assume parental or even dictatorial roles and profess the need for tough love. They think clients have to be pushed to heal. As if you could push the river.
As with all spiritual practice, Reiki practice develops your sense of agency. That’s true whether you receive treatment or practice self Reiki.
Spiritual practice opens our inner awareness, giving us a broader perspective. A life that is overwhelming when lived at the surface feels more possible when experienced from our core.
Reiki practice unfolds the appreciation that no one controls everything. While we might find ourselves in difficult situations or challenging life circumstances, we are not helpless; our choices always matter.
Perhaps you’ve seen that healthy sense of self arise in you or a client, that confidence that says, “I can work with this; I can find my way.” People who come to Reiki overwhelmed by a medical diagnosis begin to feel hopeful that they can overcome the challenges they face.
And it’s not a blind faith hopefulness that distorts the very real limitations they’re addressing. Not at all. The sense of hopefulness Reiki practice brings leads people to be more attentive to their inner cues and more motivated to take better care of themselves.
That’s why Reiki self practice is particularly well suited to people who have been victimized. When victims are approached with the respect they and all people deserve, Reiki practice can be an invaluable cornerstone of their healing because it helps them grow from within at their own pace.
That’s what I’ve seen when offering Reiki demonstrations to victims support groups and what I’ve heard from colleagues who have done the same.
Reiki can heal the damage from abuse
If you’ve been abused, you know how hard it is to trust enough to let someone else touch you. The ability to self practice removes that concern.
Whether you self practice or receive treatment from someone else, Reiki practice opens an inner spaciousness in which you feel better, not so pressured.
And when we feel better, we function better, we think more clearly, and we make better choices.
Of course, if you’ve been abused by a Reiki professional or teacher, it might be hard for you to consider Reiki practice. I encourage you to separate Reiki practice from your Reiki abuser. Place your hands on yourself and notice your physiologic response. Feel your breath naturally and spontaneously open. Bask in the safety of the moment.
What to watch for as a client or student
Whether you are looking for a Reiki professional to offer you treatment or a Reiki master teacher to train you to practice, choose your Reiki professional or teacher with great care. This is a Buyer Beware market.
There are many fine Reiki professionals. Take the time needed to find one that is a good fit for your needs.
Your teacher’s responsibility is to support you in making your own choices, not to make them for you. Run from a teacher who isolates students and tries to override your personal will.
If the teacher manipulates or even pushes you with too much enthusiasm to go past your understanding of your boundaries, that teacher might be engaging in power play.
Even if he or she wants to help, being a Reiki bully isn’t helpful.
Reiki practice evokes a person’s self-healing. We cannot force people to heal or to learn.
Look for a teacher who is in service and encourages students to develop agency.
What to watch for as a professional
Overbearing teachers or practitioners are unlikely to see themselves as Reiki bullies. You don’t have to be a full blown Reiki abuser to be causing pain.
As Reiki professionals, we straddle the fields of spirituality and health care. Becoming a professional healthcare provider requires a period of mentoring and supervision. Healthcare professionals are required to take continuing education to maintain their licenses.
There are no Reiki licenses that hold us to ethical professional standards. It’s up to us to engage in continual self inventory, reflection and inquiry to keep improving.
Take an honest look at your clinical skills, how you interact with your clients/students. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you think it’s your job to tell them what to do or do you support them in making their own choices and finding their own healing path?
- Do you push students to meet your standards or help them develop their own meaningful standards?
- Do you like having people dependent on you, or do you seek to strengthen your students’ self agency, engaging them to make choices at every juncture?
Healing from Reiki abuse
Here are my suggestions for anyone healing from Reiki abuse or any abuse:
- Don’t give up;
- Defy your circumstances;
- Believe in yourself;
- Commit to a daily spiritual practice to help you discover your true worth and live your life from your wholeness and wellness.
Reiki harm reduction
Everyone has his/her own unique healing process.
If you feel that sharing your story — without naming names — would be healing for you, you are welcome to do so in a comment below. Your story educates others how abuse can happen. That might help people recognize potentially dangerous situations and make healthier choices.
If you share your story, please avoid giving names or any identifying details. This will not be helpful if it devolves into vigilanteism.
My goal is to help people who have been victimized to find healing and to help prevent abuse by educating others what to watch for.
So please, if you feel it would help you, tell the story that is yours to tell without incriminating others. While it might be valuable at some point to confront your abuser, this is simply not the place for that confrontation.
We will give anyone who wants to share here the space to do so without imposing our comments. Please do not reply or comment on anyone else’s story; just tell your own, if you feel drawn to do so.
UPCOMING IN-PERSON EVENTS
Blessed Boundaries: Living from Choice
Spiritual Retreat at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York August 26-31
Join me for 5 days of spiritual practice, inquiry, discovery and healing at bucolic Omega Institute. Open to experience your wholeness, find deeper joy and greater strength in simply being yourself, and learn very practical strategies and skills for maintaining healthy compassionate boundaries. This retreat is open to everyone, not only Reiki practitioners. Come as you are; no prior spiritual practice experience is needed! And did I mention how good the food is, or that Omega accommodates a range of dietary needs? Register here!